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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Tight-knit running back room driving Vikings’ success on the ground

By Matthew Coller

Being a “team-first” player is complicated in the NFL. Everyone wants to win and see their teammates succeed, but for most players playing time equals job security and dollars.

Both Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray are sharing the Vikings’ backfield with unclear futures. McKinnon is a free agent after this season and the Vikings could move on from Murray with very little dead money after this season. With Dalvin Cook appearing to be the future No. 1 back, both are playing for either a deal somewhere else or a chance to play a role alongside Cook next season.

With all that in mind, the Vikings’ running back room has remained close – even when Cook walked in as a rookie and took the No. 1 job.

“That’s our room,” McKinnon said. “You have the whole team, but you have individual rooms…all of us have spent a lot of time just hanging out with each other away from football. Those guys are like my brothers.”

McKinnon has been the Vikings’ top back since Cook went down with a season-ending ACL tear, gaining 164 yards at 5.3 yards per carry and catching 11 passes over the last two weeks.

Against the Ravens, however, it was Murray’s time to shine as he picked up 113 yards on 18 carries. Over the previous two games, Murray had only gained 59 yards.

“It was good to see him do his thing,” McKinnon said. “When I’m not in there, I’m feeding off of him. He had a good game and made some big plays for us.”

The two backs have seen nearly an equal number of carries since Cook went down. They have been able to maintain the Vikings’ success in the running game, ranking seventh in the NFL overall. This coming after a 2016 season in which the Vikings were ranked 32nd.

“Me and Latavius just try to make the most out of the opportunities,” McKinnon said. “I think we’ve been doing that and the guys up front have been phenomenal this year.”

Each back has grown close with running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. After a 58-yard touchdown run against the Chicago Bears, the ESPN broadcast showed Polamalu as the first one to hug McKinnon after his big play.

“His energy, coach P is always on 1,000,” McKinnon said. “Everything that he teaches us and things that he emphasizes, we take it and learn from it.”

The post Tight-knit running back room driving Vikings’ success on the ground appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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